Backcountry Canaan Loop Road Beat the Dolly Sods crowds in this alpine sanctuary.
The brutal winters and frequent wind here in this part of West Virginia are more typical of Québec than the Mid-Atlantic. Stunted conifers hold on for dear life, while rock promontories afford views of distant ranges and river valleys. If that sounds like Dolly Sods, one of the busiest wilderness areas in the East, you’re warm. Move 20 miles west to Canaan Mountain Backcountry and you’ll shed The Sods’ crowds but not the alpine magnetism. This site is a favorite of Johnny Molloy, who wrote Day and Overnight Hikes: West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. “Some of the best high-country car camping sites I’ve found anywhere in the country are up where Forest Road 13 (Canaan Loop Road) intersects the eight hiking trails and multiple peaks of Canaan Mountain,” he says. Plus, the campsites offer a meadow-pine matrix seldom seen in the East. The area’s 13,532 acres harbor miles of interconnected trails that create a Chinese menu’s worth of dayhikes. But any itinerary should include the chef’s specials: White Rim Rocks, Table Rock Overlook, the rim at Blackwater River Gorge, and the bushwhack to Mozark Mountain.
Get there Take WV 32 south 3.3 miles from the Blackwater River bridge in Davis to a large sign pointing to “#1 Wilderness Road.” This is the Canaan Loop Rd.; high clearance recommended. Access crosses private land. Call Allegheny Wood Products (304-257-1082) to secure permission before traveling on the northern portion of the road. UTM 17S 0624904E 4324606N Map USGS Quad Blackwater Falls ($8, store.usgs.gov) Contactfs.usda.gov/mnf; (304) 636-1793